What’s Grit Got to Do with Learning? was previously posted on the AACE Review (Rogers, 2017)
In terms of education, ‘grit’ is a combination of your passion for learning, perseverance at task, and purposeful activities. Volition and conation are synonyms for grit. During his AECT 2017 keynote, Thomas Reeves, professor emeritus at the University of Georgia and AACE Fellow since 2003 tackled the topic of grit. He stated that the conative domain is the missing piece for learning and placed it beside the affective and cognitive domains as the triad for intelligence, as was the case in Aristotle’s day.
Reeves and other scholars point out that grit/conation is not new to education. He referenced Snow’s (1992) Academic Aptitude Model, Carroll’s (1993) model of school learning that included perseverance, and Kolbe’s (2002) work on the conative domain (motivational-volitional). Looking at the literature, many prominent psychologists, past and current, recognize non-intellectual factors in learning performance.
Grit is important because it can boost life-long academic achievement (Abuhassàn & Bates, 2016). Here’s how other scholars describe it: industrious, conscientiousness, personality trait (Roberts, Lujeuz, Krueger, Richards, & Hill, 2014), passion, and perseverance (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, & Kelly, 2007). Critics of Duckworth et al.’s take on grit as a trait for success question the validity of their study’s findings (i.e., generalizability, confounding variables) and wonder whether participants who quit a grueling West Point Cadet initiation program also used grit to do so (Denby, 2016).
Duckworth and Reeves both mention Dweck’s (2009) theory on the growth mindset, as a way to help students develop grit. If you want to delve deeper into Grit, also take a look at Deci and Ryan’s (2009) self-determination theory since it addresses one’s ability to complete a task through willingness, volition, and endorsement of an activity.
The important message for learners is that grit is not solely about your ability/potential/talent per se. Grit is up to you!
Grit and Me
As a first-generation college graduate raised in situational poverty by a single parent, my perseverance has paid off. My grit is based on my openness to experience and conscientiousness, which you might recognize from the Big Five Personality Traits. I recently experienced grit during a gaming workshop, where I couldn’t hear the presenter or see the presentation clearly and my computer was running slow, but I persevered and learned the lesson. For me, it’s that point where I’m embarrassed by my ineptitude and faced with the fight-or-flight feeling. For my grit to kick in, it needs to be a challenging and purposeful activity.
Do you have grit? Take Duckworth’s Grit Scale to find out.
Abuhassàn, A., & Bates, T. C. (2015). Grit: Distinguishing effortful persistence from conscientiousness. Journal of Individual Differences, 36(4), 205-214. doi:10.1027/1614-0001/a000175
Deci, E. & Ryan, R. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78. doi:10.1037110003-066X.55.1.68
Denby, D. (2016, June). The limits of grit. Retrieved from https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-limits-of-grit
Duckworth, A. L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M. D., & Kelly, D. R. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9(6), 1087-1101. doi:10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.117
Dweck, C. (2009). Developing Growth Mindsets: How Praise Can Harm, and How to Use It Well. [Presentation]. Paper presented at the Scottish Learning Festival, Glasgow. Retrieved from http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/video/c/video_tcm4565678.asp
Kolbe, K. (2002). The conative connection: Uncovering the link between who you are and how you perform. New South Wales: Pow Wow Events International.
Roberts, B. W., Lejuez, C., Krueger, R. F., Richards, J. M., & Hill, P. L. (2014). What is conscientiousness and how can it be assessed? Developmental Psychology, 50(5), 1315-1330.
Snow, R. E. (1992). Aptitude theory: Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Educational Psychologist, 27, 5-32.
Sandra Annette Rogers, Ph.D